The Cause for the Gap (pt 2)

The intense disillusionment with which I finished my years of schooling led me to desperation for life and adventure. I found the World Race, and I did it, and it was fantastic. But that’s not the point of this story.

Even after the Race, emerging back into “real” life, I struggled intensely with what I felt was a disappointment of my life’s potential. I struggled to find a field that interested me, or a job that I was willing to commit to. I longed for the greatness of a cause, the promise of meaningful work, or of channeling my gifts into some sort of wildly productive yield. Nothing materialized, though. The deficit from earlier years was still in full swing.

So it was in that year of 2010 that I started experimenting with this blog. I put something together that looked respectable, with a name that showed some indefinite promise of greatness, and without a clear focus but at least a lot of enthusiasm and hope. I wrote intermittently. I felt okay about the words that I wrote.

And I did all this, largely, because I didn’t know what other means were available for me to begin changing the world. I reasoned that a blog was the mark of a smart person, a writer, someone with reach and influence, someone who might make a difference in society. I knew that prolific writers were respected, renowned for their wisdom, viewed as successful. Some of them even do actually change the world.

To add to that, I had always enjoyed writing. So, I started the blog to show the world that I was making headway toward making it. I was going to close that deficit, the great gap, at last.

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Had I known at that time how misguided my blog motives were, I may have waited a while. But I didn’t know any of this. I didn’t understand any of this story until about 6 months ago.

At that point, it suddenly hit me that I had had an unhealthy relationship with my blog from the start. Or, I should say, with my readership. I was obsessed with it. I managed to write a few hit blogs over the summer, ones that went viral for 24 hours, and received thousands of views … and those hits let me inexorably into a habit of checking my site stats. I equated higher numbers of visitors with bigger influence, and bigger influence with growing success. The blog stats became a self-actualization meter for me. I became quietly, subtly obsessed with gaining the approval of the world by showing off my brilliant written witticisms.

And once I realized this — all at once in early September — I was a bit alarmed.

So I pulled the plug. I took a break to reassess things. I quit blogging like the bad habit that it was.

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So in this time of exile from my blog — I couldn’t resist — I’ve been relaxing instead, and wedding planning, and introspecting. The relaxation was nice. The wedding planning eventually led to my getting married(!) in February. The introspection, for its part, yielded some conclusions that I hope may be useful.

1) It is good to unearth one’s assumptions

All of the narrative above was unknown to me for most of my life.

This was because — as I wrote much earlier — the message of my own potential and aptitude sank into my soul, and made a home there far below conscious thought. It was repeated so many times and from such an early age that I cannot remember a time at which I did not believe that I was smarter and brighter and more-destined-for-greatness than most people around me. Sorry to say, that’s how I see the world, even now.

Indeed, the sheer power of such a consistent chorus cannot be understated — indeed, when parents and mentors do not give this kind of reinforcement, the negative consequences are far more pronounced. But that belongs in another blog.

The key here, though, for me, was to dig. I was prompted to dig by the emergence of my blog-stat-checking habit, which grew more compulsive as time went on. It was symptomatic of a hidden urge, a need or craving for something about which I didn’t yet know.

So I opened the hood and poked around, and found that blogging was a vehicle for me to close this imagined deficit with which I had dealt for several years.

2) Beware the power of people’s expectations

… because they soon become your own.

That is to say — for all the well-meaning of my parents’ encouragement, their verbal approval in my childhood became something that I really wanted and needed. Eventually, when I came to the more-independent years of my life, I found that my performance fell short of their hopes. In fact, even without their input, I found that my performance fell short of what-I-imagined-their-hopes-would-be. Moreover, what I imagined their hopes would-be actually had subtly become my own expectations for myself. Their well-intended applause from my childhood went into hibernation in my adolescence, and eventually awoke as a new monster in my adulthood, which shouted: you are not good enough!

My parents have no fault here — parents who love their children will applaud them and have high hopes for them. So good job, parents!

But for me, as I entered true adulthood, I’ve needed to find ways to extricate and differentiate my own hopes from those of my parents. Through my adolescent years (extending into college), I simply pretended that their expectations didn’t exist. But as I emerged into proper manhood, with my own autonomy finally established, I realized that their approval matters to me immensely. And this, as we’ve seen, created inner turmoil for me.

3) Sometimes, motives aren’t so important

At times, the sheer beauty or significance of an act is good enough to make it justifiable, regardless of the questionable motives of its agent.

In this case, I have long equivocated about my return to writing. Will I be able to avoid the snare cast by the approval of my readership? Will I be doing it all for the right reasons?

I have at last decided that the answers (probably yes) are not of absolutely paramount importance. Sometimes, a thing is significant enough that it is simply worth writing about. Sometimes, the aggregate effect of the message’s stirring the hearts of distant and unknown readers simply outweighs the temptations and mixed motives of recognition that are presented to its single author.

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So for those reasons, here I am again. With less focus than ever, simply writing for the joy of it, and hoping that these words will stir your heart.

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